Aug 14, 2017 | Amaresh Choudhary
We’ve always heard and believed that there is no such thing as a free lunch. As content marketers we shoulder the sombre task of constantly feeding the interests of 99% of the Internet – which is a HUGE responsibility. While written content should always be original and crafted with purpose, we’ve wished more that once that we had help on the visual front. Good images are job half done for a good blog, webpage or article. They attract, retain attention and remain in memory much more than words.
As always, we’ve turned to stock photos more than once only to find that some of the images are too plastic. The worst mistake that marketers make when using stock photos are using standard or common photos that the user may have already seen a few times.
Something like this
In such cases, the image is so generic that it makes it difficult for the user to use it as a specific point of recall for the brand.
In other cases, the images are so ‘plastic’ that the user can’t relate to it or associate it with your brand.
While choosing stock photos for ourselves and our clients, we began to recognize a pattern to pick better stock images.
Choose images that don’t look staged
The moment we mention stock photos, we often think of picture-perfect staged photos that have models with perfect smiles, clothing and setting. Users don’t stop to think much but subconsciously, they know that the picture isn’t ‘authentic’. It is staged. This creates a disconnect with your brand and doesn’t allow them to fully trust the content as a whole.
There are simple little things that allow us to perceive the image as ‘authentic’. The people in the image aren’t perfect models but ‘common’ people (or at least look like it). The need not have perfect hair, make up and clothes. The overall setting is more ‘natural’, which means everything isn’t colour coordinated and set up like a studio. The activity in the picture needs to look genuine rather than being captured at the perfect moment.
Compare these two images of a woman shopping.
Choose images that go with the flow of the content
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Most blogs, web pages or articles have a ‘feature’ image. This is the anchor image that gets shared automatically on social media so this needs to be chosen with utmost care. After all, when your user is swiping through his feed, it is this image and not the text content that’ll grab a user’s attention. It is also the first image that builds the impression for things to come. The feature image and other images used, therefore, have to be linked as closely to the content as possible.
If you have a bulleted list blog and have started by placing an image under each point, make sure you all points have a proper image in the same position. It helps the user follow a pattern which makes reading easy.
Your image should speak 1000 words
Whenever you pick an image, always ask yourself how the image visually connects with your brand. When using images in-between content, don’t post ‘filler’ images or pick others as an afterthought.
How does the visual add to the overall experience of the blog post?
What does it convey that the text doesn’t?
When you are writing about freelance content writing, showing the image of a beach babe with a laptop isn’t the most authentic one you can pick. Instead of showing an interesting home office setting with a little mix of work and play gives it a more realistic tone. It offers users a glimpse into the life of an actual work from home professional with its quirks and imperfections.
‘Personalize’ the image and make it your own
If you’ve discovered a great stock image, chances are many others before you have too. And many others after you will also use the image. Even if you use such an image, there are some neat tips and tricks to make your image different from the original stock image. You can add text overlays, enhance colours, a colour overlay over certain areas, crop the image to use only a portion of it, add a filter and enhance contrasts. This makes a good image better than before and personalized to an extent so that your image doesn’t look like similar images found online.
Find new pastures for your resource base
As content marketers, we all have our comfort zones – websites we go to whenever we need to dip into a pool of inspiration and find something that becomes a part of our story. But the fun lies in the discovery of something new altogether that makes you grab an extra cup of coffee and sit up.
So, we’ve put together a cool list of websites that you can raid for your free stock photos. You may already be using some of these. As for others, here’s to discovering finer pastures.
Please note that ‘free’ doesn't mean it doesn't have terms attached. Each website has its own criteria. Some licenses allow only personal use and restrict commercial use unless you buy it. Others require attribution to the photographer. Be sure to check the website before you use the picture.
In our last article 10 websites that give stunning free images, we gave you a list of websites that offer fantastic resources.
If you don’t want to go back there, here it is for your convenience.
A fresh list of websites that offer absolutely free awesome pictures
Since then, our team has been scouting for more such websites that offer great photographs and for free. Based on their findings, we are happy to report that there are more such awesome websites which are generous enough to allow us marketers free photographs – and that too in high resolutions.
So here we go. A list of websites that give you stunning pictures for free use.
Burst, which is powered by Shopify, offers free stock photos which are licensed under CC0 (Creative Commons) and can be used in whichever way you like. It allows entrepreneurs and shop owners at Shopify put relevant images for products, web pages and marketing campaigns. What’s great about the site is that the front page navigation is clearly and neatly laid out under categories like Baby, Beach, Food, Food, Fun, Woman etc that makes it a breeze to search.
Ryan McGuire of Bells design is the man behind Gratisography. The site offers high-resolution pictures that can be used both for commercial and personal purposes without paying any money. While there are regular categories of pictures, there is also a category called ‘Whimsical’ which captures quirky and unique stock photos.
Negative Space is a platform for photographers to share their work with the world. And it gives users these beautiful high resolution photographs free of cost and free under Creative Commons Cco. What’s more? Get started!
Created by www.kpmalinowski.pl this is another great site for free stock photos that can be used for both personal and business purposes. Credits aren’t necessary but appreciated. You get the hint.
Picography has been put together by Hidden Depth from Ireland. The pictures on the are free to use and are quite beautiful. The site also has a premium membership that costs $15/month. This includes photos that aren’t published online, access to the full free image catalogue, sync with Dropbox and unlimited downloads.
MMT has seen over 65000 downloads since its launch. There are new photos every week and are completely free to use. You can find photos on the site with a right #tag. The site has a good collection of nature and workspace stock photos. Most photos on the site are by Jeffrey Betts who built this site as a way to give back to the online community. How amazing is that!
SkitterPhoto describes itself as a ‘place to find, show and share public domain photos’. Launched by amateur photographers in 2014, the site was started because they realised how difficult it was to find good quality, free photographs.
Life of Pix has been created by Leeroy Advertising Agency in Montreal. All photos are free and devoid of copyrights restrictions. Every week, the site allows you to discover the photographer of the week. The site is not just for free photos. It is a community that allows you to discover your favourite photographers and eggs photographers to get noticed by becoming the photographer of the week.
FoodiesFeed is the perfect site for food bloggers. Food bloggers know how difficult it is to get high-quality photographs while you are cooking – with the steam and oil, something that needs tossing and the right colour of food that looks enticing on the web. That’s why there is FoodiesFeed where you can search from over 800 photographs what are crafted to perfection.
The site has some interesting categories of stock photos. While some are completely free to use, others require attribution. Look up each photograph for the criteria to use it. The site also has free website templates. How handy is that!
Make your story of history more interesting with this free for use vintage photos from public archives. If you do use a photo from their site, be kind and give a shout out on twitter.
If you follow Jay Mantri, you’ll be a little more happy when Thursday comes as Jay releases 7 new photos every Thursday. You can also follow him on Instagram for daily posts and inspiration.
Visual explosion – that’s what you’ll experience on the Kaboom website. Photos are free for use for all purposes but cannot be sold or distributed. Kaboom has a lot of interesting features. The search feature helps you find the best suited photographs for the keywords you type in. They also show the colour pallet of the photo’s colours besides it. The images are available in a variety of sizes. Don’t forget to stop by their blog for interesting reads and tips.
Epicantus is a site by Daria that has free to use original photography. The work is top notch so if you have any special requests for a particular type of photograph, do drop an email.
Need your daily fix of free images? Shotstash is the place for you. The site adds new photos everyday and is completely free to use. Good tech photos are a little hard to come by but you can find them here.
The stock images on the site are free (more or less) to use but the copyrights remain with the author. The images can’t be used for app design, website builder, resell photos, print it on tees, mobile covers etc and sell them.
When you get to the site, you’ll start scrolling through their photos and keep scrolling because it is a whole new world out there. They have partnered with Shutterstock where you can buy some photos too.
Some of the key things we noticed are that a lot of free photo sites were started by people who found a dearth of good quality free photos and decided to give back to the community by launching and maintaining a website that solved everyone’s problem. We started out this article with the adage that there was no such thing as a free lunch. Turns out there is still goodness out there in the world.
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